Do Indians need booster shots of COVID-19 vaccine?

Oct 2, 2021

There has been a rising chatter about many countries administering booster shots for their citizens. With talks about the potential 3rd wave hitting India, it is essential to understand the need & the subsequent consequences of taking a booster shot for COVID-19.

To deep-dive into the conversation around Booster Doses, Dhani’s Senior Strategist, Prakhar Khandelwal spoke to Dr. Abhinav Wankar (COVID Care Specialist), who helped us in understanding the value of Booster Doses, and why India still has a long way to go before it gives Booster Shots a serious consideration.

Dr. Abhinav Wankar, MBBS, DNB, MBA, has several years of experience, including at Yashoda Hospital in Hyderabad and as a senior resident for AIIMS in Delhi. Additionally, he has functioned as Chief of Medical Services for Sahyadri Hospital in Pune; the largest chain of Hospitals in Maharashtra. Recently, he was associated with Kingsway Hospital in Nagpur as Chief of Medical Services & Head Quality

PK: We hear in the news that some countries are thinking of starting booster doses of COVID vaccinations. Could you tell us what a booster shot is?

Dr: Booster shots or booster doses are additional doses of a vaccine that are administered with the intention of improving or prolonging the efficacy of a vaccine. With a vaccine they can be given when it is thought that the effect of a vaccine is starting to wane. So the booster may be given to strengthen the immunity and continue with the protective effect afforded by the vaccine. In COVID -19, it is still scientifically unclear if everyone will require a booster shot and if yes, then how these will be prioritised considering the limited resources available. As of now, India has not yet started any program to give booster doses.Also, it is unclear if the booster doses have not shown to be any more effective against the newer variants, hence their usefulness at a time like this in India, when more than 40% of the population are still to receive their first dose seems limited. It is a priority to get all vaccinated before starting out with booster doses.

PK: Who do you think may benefit from these booster doses?

Dr: We know that booster doses are more effective in people who may not be have been able to develop a good immune response during the first dose of vaccination or someone who may have been immunized a while ago. This can include the elderly who were prioritised to get the shots initially. People above the age of 65 are at risk of underlying health threats and can have weakened immune defences. The booster dose can reduce the risk of death and severe disease.People with compromised immunity, too could benefit primarily from these booster shots as their immune systems would not have developed a good response the first time around.Healthcare workers and frontline healthcare staff would also benefit from this as they were immunised the earliest and continue to face the maximum risk of infection on a day to day basis.

PK: Why are booster shots given after a specific period of getting vaccinated? Are antibodies only known to last for a certain period?

Dr: We know that typically antibodies generated after taking a vaccine start to wane after a few months. While this may not necessarily indicate a loss of immunity, it can be one of the indicators, and hence boosters are typically planned after this period. We will need more scientific evidence to indicate, for instance, from population studies that show increased severity of infection in people who were previously vaccinated and that vaccine efficacy has indeed waned.

PK: Is there anything else you would like to tell our viewers?

Dr: We must ensure that everyone gets vaccinated at least with the recommended doses, so please encourage everyone to take the vaccine. There may be an argument for booster doses on a case by case basis depending on a person immune status, and we will have to wait for the scientific evidence on that. In the meantime, we would also like everyone to understand that the vaccines are very effective, so please do take your recommended doses if you have not already done so.If you’ve any COVID-19 related query, do reach out to Dhani doctors on the app, you can speak to any of our doctors who will be able to help you with your health concerns. Get connected in just 10 seconds, available 24x7; Download the Dhani app today to get free unlimited consultation for 30 days.

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